Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 174: How to Be a Leader Worth Following Pt 2

Welcome to the 174th episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

If you enjoy listening to this podcast and it has helped you and your team in any way, please leave us a review on Apple Podcast or Stitcher or take the time to share it on social media.

Do you have a question for Pastor Josh about leadership, ministry, or any other topic we’ve covered on the podcast so far? Submit your questions to info@joshuagagnon.com or @joshgagnon on Twitter and Pastor Josh might answer it on a future episode!

This episode is the second part in a two-part conversation. To listen to part one, click here


You can read the full transcription of this episode below.


Daniel King: Well thank you for tuning in once again to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. My name is Daniel King and I have the privilege of hosting this week’s episode. I’m sitting down with my buddy, my friend, and a great leader, Mr. Roman Archer.

Roman Archer: Hello.

D: How are you doing this week, Roman?

R: Doing good.

D: Good. This is part two of something we started last week, so let me just say off the bat if you haven’t listened to part 1 yet, you’re potentially going to be pretty confused, so you’re probably going to want to hit pause and go check out last week’s episode first. We’re just going to get straight into it without the setup here, and jump into part 2 of how to be a leader worth following. So picking up where we left off, what’s the next one on your list?

R: Let me just say really quick that this came out of the desire of sharing some of the reasons why I believe I’ve been able to cross a milestone that was so important to me. One of the dreams that I have is being able to dedicate my life to a single cause. Obviously that’s living open-handed, but I would love to be able to look back over the course of my life and be able to say that I served one church and so far I’m ten years into this journey and a lot of the reasons why has to do with the leader that I’m following. And so right around that ten-year mark, I sat down and I wrote out some of the reasons why I think I’ve been able to cross that milestone, and most of it has to do with the culture around me. Those that I work with, those that I work under, and the culture that we built and a lot of that flows down from our lead pastor. And so this is a talk about being a leader worth following. Some of the characteristics that I’ve seen played out in his life and we talked about some really important ones last week, as you said Daniel, go back and listen to it. But this week, we’re going to be finishing it off. And so a leader worth following, here’s another one, is ready to grab a shovel and dig with everyone else. A leader worth following is ready to grab a shovel and dig with everyone else. Not always because he has to, but because that’s his heart. I think a leader that recognizes that there are times where they can’t be in the trenches digging, because they have to be strategically thinking, I think that is important, but having a leader that is willing to at times, jump down there and get into the nitty gritty. That speaks volumes to those that you are leading. There’s a saying that goes, “Make it hard to spot the general by working like a soldier.” And I think that is so key. I think if we are willing as leaders to step down into the trenches, and to look at the capacity of our team to accomplish things together, it speaks to this idea of unity. And so I’ve watched that over the last ten years as Pastor Josh, who I follow, has been willing to step into the trenches, has been willing to, in a very real way...

D: Literally pick up the shovel.

R: Literally pick up shovels, run excavators, you know, we would often joke, we’d be at a job site at one of our sites somewhere building a facility and we would say just put in anybody’s name, but you’re not going to see so-and-so out there doing this, in regards to other leaders and, you know it’s just funny that that’s that context that we have, is we really want to make sure that from the top down, everyone is in a position where they’d be willing to get in that trench because we have. That’s where we’ve led, and so having that humility I think is so important. Another one is this: a leader worth following has optimism in the face of challenges. Optimism in the face of challenges. I think having the ability to be stable…

D: You’re still working on this one. I’m laughing over here as you’re saying that.

R: This is absolutely the hardest one for me. I can be a very emotional person and so I experience a lot of peaks and valleys, I’m very high or low. And having somebody that can be pretty, I would say stable, but I would also just consistent., yeah, that idea of even, there’s not a whole lot of highs, there’s not a whole lot of lows, it’s pretty consistent. And I think that is so key and what that does is it brings optimism when there are challenges and just a level of comfort. I think having somebody that laughs and smiles as well is a huge deal. There’s been times where we’ve literally been in meetings, trying to process three things that we’re not sure, have a solution, and if we’re going to be able to continue to move forward in the weeks, months, years to come, and still being able to laugh and have somewhat of a light heart in it. You know, those are the times as leaders where we are least likely to operate out of joy or even a sense of fun and levity, but for our teams, those are the times when it is most needed, because we’re feeling most drained is usually when we need to cast vision the most, and as a leader, following someone that has a good thermometer for where that is is key.

D: Yeah, one of the things that I think Pastor Josh is really good at is sensing the person, and I think this goes back to one of the ones we talked about last week, is asking personal questions you get to know people on a personal way, right? And you learn the nuance and the differences in people’s personality and he’s so good at sensing where that person is in the moment and bringing the opposite, like in both directions. Like, man this person’s so excited, they’re so fired up, they think everything’s going great, and he sees like, this cracks in the armor over here, and he’s able to bring that and be like, hey, it is going well right now but hey, if we don’t fix this it’s going to be a problem, right? And in the flip side, probably you more than me, but he’ll notice those moments when it’s just like, man, that guy’s discouraged and he’s able to come in and be like, dude, it seems bad, I get it, I know we’re all frustrated, but the reality is God’s never abandoned us. He’s always been here. We’ve always gotten through. Remember the time we’ve gotten through x, y, and z? And like, bring that back, right? And he’s always able to pull in that proper perspective and more often than not, it’s the person who’s discouraged, right? Who just needs lifted up and just reminded like, hey, we’ve been here, God’s got this, it’s going to be okay.

R: You have to have a determination to have fun while you endure the process. If you’re not intentional about it, if you don’t look for opportunities to have fun and be optimistic, life, leadership has a way of grinding you out. I don’t know how many times I’ve been taken on a “leadership drive,” I’m making air quotations right now, or a “leadership walk,” where it’s just kind of like we gotta step aside your perspective, it’s not as bad as you think it is. A saying that we have, and this comes from, we were at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit one year, and one of the talks, I think it was Colin Powell who actually shared, it was a saying that he would have with those that he would work with, is he would just tell them, “It will look better in the morning.” It will look better in the morning. So there are times where we’ll have a leadership meeting, and it kind of ends where there’s really no clarity, it’s just one of those things that we’re continuing to walk through it, and we’ll just kind of end and smile and say, “It’s gonna look better in the morning. I know it doesn’t look good now.” And it just brings that sense of like, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.

D: For me, it’s the relational part, right? So for me it’s always like, he’s disappointed in me, like that was my responsibility and x,y, and z’s not going well, right? And so it’s like, it’s a bad Sunday and like the giving’s not good or the attendance isn’t good or something happened that made it a bad Sunday, right? And he can always tell when I’m taking it personal, and carrying it too much, cause I always know cause he’ll be like, um, I got pizza on order, see you in an hour for the Patriots game. He knows that I just need to know that we’re still buddies at the end of the day, there’s not a relational, even though the work thing has to get better, it’s not a personal issue. It’s my responsibility to fix it, but I didn’t cause it. And he always knows how to send that message for me, he’s always like, come on over, we’ll do this, or don’t worry, in two days we’re going to be whatever.

R: Yeah, just to not live in discouragement, because you know, winning players will create a winning team. But when you feel like you’re losing and nothing’s going straight, it’s really hard to get the morale needed to overcome the obstacles. And so I think, again, we’re talking about that idea of optimism, but being able to keep your team in the face of adversity, keeping them feeling like they’re winning. How do you do that? It’s okay, we’ve been here before, we’re going to get through this, and having that levity and that ability to bring optimism to some dark situations.

D: Yeah, that’s great. Alright let’s go on to the next one.

R: Another one is humble. A leader worth following is not a perfect leader, but a repentant one. And so this speaks to the idea of humility. And I’ve watched this, I’ve watched opportunities for Pastor to say things as far as, I’m the boss, or this is the way it’s gonna be, but I’ve watched him walk in a sense of humility where it’s not his way or the highway, but when he does see, man, maybe I’m missing the mark here, then he admits when he’s wrong and saying sorry, listening to others, learning. I once heard it said that there’s three keys to a good apology: Number one, I’m sorry, and be specific and not vague. What are you sorry for? I was wrong, and just owning it, not making excuses, and what can I do to make it better? I’ll be honest that as a leader, it’s actually funny because I was having a conversation with somebody that I lead that’s on my team right before this and they brought to me a way that I had handled the conversation that cut them kind of deep, and so even in that, I had to kind of, this is how an apology usually looks like for me, is what I’m trying to say. I heard them say that, and this is what I wanted to say: I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry your feelings were hurt, but in that moment I’m your boss. You know what I mean? We have all of these ways that we can appear humble but we’re not going to apologize for what we did, we’re just going to make them feel stupid for how they feel, and we’re not going to be specific about it and we’re going to give a reason for why what we did was okay. No, a real apology

D: We all tend to be defensive.

R: Yeah, it’s just simply saying I’m sorry for doing this and being specific, it was wrong, regardless, there’s no “but,” there’s no “because this happened, that’s why I did it, it’s just, “I was wrong and what can I do to make it better? How can we fix this now?” And I’ve watched him walk in that. And that’s the type of leader that anybody wants to follow. Not a perfect leader, not someone that is never able to admit they’re wrong, but someone that is able to say, yeah, I missed the mark on that and I’m sorry and this is what we’re going to do moving forward.

D: Yeah, just a point of advice that I had to do sometimes is go out of your way to find something to apologize for. If that’s what you struggle with and you don’t have a good track record, you think of doing that, go out of your way to find mistakes that you can go to somebody, even today, and just be like, man, I was just thinking back and last week I did x, y, and z, and I just wanted you to know, I shouldn’t have done that. And even if it’s not a big thing, a small thing, just to be able to turn that ship and change that perception is so powerful for people.

R: Absolutely. Two more. Two more characteristics of a leader worth following is systematic about seeking feedback. I’ve watched him be systematic about seeking feedback, and what I mean by that again, is it speaks to this determination or this intentionality of always getting feedback, of being a curious leader, asking questions. You know it’s funny, I’ve got an eight-year-old, well soon to be an eight-year-old, a seven-year-old and a four-year-old right now, and the most used word in our house right now is probably “Why”. And to a certain point, it’s annoying, as parents we get it.

D: More than a certain point.

R: But you think about why that is, is cause there’s really no insecurity that a child has about admitting when they don’t have the answers. As we get older, this insecurity beings to breed in us where questions show that we don’t have the answers and therefore is a weakness, and so we stop seeking feedback, we stop asking questions and I’ve watched him demonstrate a curious heart, one that wants to learn, one that wants to grow. And so he has a desire to learn and the ability to change, and I think that’s one of the reasons that makes him a great leader. Again, a desire to learn and the ability to change. He seeks feedback, and he applies that feedback. Questions like, what is one thing I can do to help take you further in your leadership? What’s one thing you need me to stop doing? I think it’s that idea of blind spots. We all have them as a leader. Unexposed blind spots will always lead us to a collision. And if we’re not seeking feedback, if we’re not asking questions, then there’s blind spots that we are unaware of that it’s just waiting for an accident to happen.

D: Yeah. And I think there’s organizational systems, I guess you could say, of doing this, right? Like annual reviews and things like that that organizationally force it, but in order to get real answers, this has to be something that is done a lot more often than once a year. And it has to be something that’s done in a relational context, which goes back to the humble one and goes back to the one we talked about last week, about knowing people personally, right? Where there’s a level of trust where people feel okay with giving you real feedback, right? And all the way back to the one we started with, being authentic, right? And if you’re not that, you’re never going to open the door to get the real answers, right? So it’s easy to say, we had our review meeting, first time I’ve talked to the person in a year, but we sat down, we did our meeting, if they were upset, they should have told me. And like, yeah, sure, fair enough, but I would say about 1% of human beings on the planet are going to bring something up out of the blue like that to their boss that they’re upset about, right? But creating that constant culture and that constant awareness where, yeah, if you’re giving me bad feedback everyday, probably this is just a bad relationship and one of us need to look for a new job. But if something’s coming up and it’s just bothering you the way I talk to you or the way I communicate, or those things, and always be willing to ask about that on a regular basis I think is so important.

R: Yeah, no you’re right on. The last one is this, and probably one of the most important things is, a leader worth following has integrity. Has integrity. Is the same person on stage as he is backstage. I think we’ve all experienced different people who have lived a double life. You’ve seen the two sides of them, and that’s a really hard thing and, you know, maybe depending on your personality, for me, that’s a really hard thing to reconcile. Authenticity, transparency is really important to me, and when I feel like there’s a duplicity in someone’s actions and in their leadership, I have a hard time with that, and so integrity. Integrity. A leader worth following has integrity. God doesn’t pour blessings into a bucket with no bottom, and integrity is that bottom. If you’re not going to live with integrity, and the day will come for each and every one of us where progress will come at the cost of our integrity. If we want to continue to move forward. Now, it’s going to in that moment seem like it’s the only way, it’s not. But in those moments, if we have not made up our mind ahead of time of our values and what we’re willing to live within, we will end up compromising our integrity as leaders. Because progress, we feel like, well it’s just a means to an  end, I’m going to go ahead and this action will be okay. And it’s a slippery slope. I’ve watched leader after leader after leader lose their integrity because of that. And so the day will come when progress will call for compromise, what will you do? Are you a leader worth following, a leader with integrity? Or are there secret things you’re really nervous people are going to find out about? And that even changes the dynamic of being transparent and doing some of the these other things, it all rolls together. You know, if we’re living a double life, some of these other things become almost impossible to truly live out.

D: Awesome. Thank you so much, Roman, for sharing those. I know it was encouragement to the location pastors when they heard it and I believe for our listeners it’s going to help them as well. As always, if you guys have questions, feedback, anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out by whatever means you prefer. Take a second, leave a rating or review or tell somebody you learned from this episode on social media and help us continue to spread the word as this podcast continues to grow and influence and prayerfully help more leaders to lead even better. Appreciate you guys listening. See you next time on the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast.